It’s getting close now.
We’ve finally reached the Top 10 in my Countdown of the Top 30 Sitcoms of All Time.
Has your favourite made it in yet?
What do you expect to be in this and indeed in the Top 5?
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When it first came out, you could have argued that Peepshow – with its first person perspective style – was a gimmick, but it’s testament to the actors and directors that you end up forgetting about the way it’s presented pretty quickly.
What I would say about Peepshow is that – while it’s mostly hilarious – it would have finished higher up if the show had ended after Season 4. To me, had it ended with Mark walking out on the woman he’s lusted after for four seasons on their wedding day, it would have immortalised the show as one of the best sitcoms ever.
And yes, the fact that it still finishes 10th on my list does suggest that I feel that way regardless, but even so, the stuff from Season 5 onwards hasn’t been as good and there’s a feeling that it’s just retreading over the same ground. And Dobby is just irritating.
Also, I felt the last season was pretty poor on the whole.
Still, it’s an excellent series overall and deserving of a place in the Top 10.
Best Episode: University Challenge
It’s the one where Mark follows a girl with “the right combination of good looks and low self-esteem” who he met in a shoe shop to her University. Jez and Superhans go along for the ride to play a gig.
It’s Peepshow at its best, and has some of the most memorable moments, like “Do a Columbo”.
Don’t you mean Dad’s Army?
By some distance, Dad is the most obscure sitcom on this list, compounded by the fact that it’s never been repeated in the UK and isn’t even available on DVD.
And yet I truly consider it to be one of the best sitcoms of all time.
What’s it about? Well IMDB describes it as…
“The trials and tribulations of a dutiful, insecure son (Kevin McNally), and his loyal, long-suffering family, who try to get reacquainted with his eccentric, know-it-all, pensioner father (George Cole) after they have spent a long period of time apart”
Every single episode (there are 13 in all) is brilliant in its own way, but it was lost in the shuffle at the time against some of the other sitcoms of the 90s that had more popular followings like 2 Point 4 Children, One Foot in the Grave and Men Behaving Badly.
Both George Cole and Kevin McNally are superb.
It really is beyond me why this was never a bigger success in its native country. And yet one time whilst on holiday in the USA, I stumbled across a repeat there. Bizarre.
If you can find a download of Dad, get it! Get it today!
Best Episode: Dadcaholic
The one where Alan (Kevin McNally) worries about his dad’s drinking and his son’s potential drug abuse. It leads to a situation where he accompanies his father to his Old Man’s drinking club and ends up getting wasted himself.
The punchline is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a sitcom.
It also has the great line – which one of my friends still talks about to this day – “Wake up Beryl, it’s D”. Without a reference point that’ll mean nothing to more than 99% of the readers.
8. The Thick of It
More than most of the shows on this list, it’s about the dialogue, and indeed about the dialogue of one central character, Malcolm Tucker.
Peter Capaldi puts in a performance so good as the sort of Alistair Campbell of the Thick of It world that he’ll probably be remembered for that far more than any of the other parts he’s played in his illustrious career.
And yet he isn’t my favourite character. I actually find the small cameos by his more aggressive underling Jamie to be even funnier.
Unfortunately for The Thick of It, outside forces meant the show was affected.
First of all there was the removal of main character Chris Langham for legal troubles, which saw him replaced by the inferior Rebecca Front. Then Labour lost the General Election meaning the show had to move to a two-pronged, Government/Opposition format to keep characters like Tucker in the show.
And yet it still continued to be exceptionally funny.
As a series, the Thick of It has finished for good, but let’s hope there’s a Christmas Special or two somewhere down the line.
Best Episode: Season 2, Episode 1
The one where Hugh has a disastrous visit to a ministerial visit to a local factory and Ollie is seconded to Downing Street by Malcolm and Jamie so that he can phone his girlfriend, who works for the opposition.
7. Men Behaving Badly
Even when they went up to collect their award, Martin Clunes and Neil Morrissey were a bit embarrassed because they knew it wasn’t true and that they received the award because it was the only one in the running which was actually on TV at the time. They even said that.
So yeah, it’s not the best ever, nor is it the best sitcom of the 1990s, but it’s still excellent.
The first season – the one with Harry Enfield as the main character – that was on ITV was good, but it only really came into its own when it moved to BBC1 and Morrissey joined up.
Carried mainly by the quality of Martin Clunes, MBB was consistent throughout its run as a top show.
Like The Thick of It, I’d like to see a Christmas Special somewhere down the road.
Best Episode: Casualties
I’ll admit to not having seen MBB for a few years, so I might be doing it a disservice, but the episode where the boys do everything in their power to stop Deb from selling her flat stands out as a great one.
6. Dad’s Army
And then, a couple of years ago when the Christmas TV schedule was so poor that I ended up watching BBC2, I found myself really enjoying it.
So I bought the boxed set for something brilliant like £15 and set about watching them all.
And it was amazing.
The acting, the characters and the plots were all brilliant. The fact that it relies so much on catchphrases and the way Captain Mainwairing gives wearisome looks actually works in its favour, which is a testament to the comic timing of the experienced cast.
There’s no doubt the show suffered following the death of Walker (James Beck), although they missed a trick by not keeping his replacement – Talfryn Thomas – around for more than one season.
And like many sitcoms, by the time the last season aired, you had a feeling that it had run out of steam. Indeed, by that point, some of the cast were so old that they couldn’t do much more than sit down and talk.
But when it was good, it was brilliant.
And what it also did was examine some serious themes like the troops’ willingness to die for the cause in a heartbeat. The line in The Battle For Godfrey’s Cottage where they think they are being invaded and Mainwairing says to a couple of his troops – before they go out to defend the coast – “You realise it’ll be the end for us” and they go regardless, paid the proper respect to those that were in the Home Guard for real.
Best Episode: Branded
No, it’s not going to be The Deadly Attachment. Despite that being the most famous episode of all, it wasn’t even in my top 20.
There are so many brilliant episodes – like the aforementioned Battle For Godfrey’s Cottage, Put That Light Out and Time On My Hands – but for me is has to be Branded.
Not only is it funny, but it so sad at the same time.
When the platoon find out Godfrey was a conscientious objector in the First World War, they ostracise him and brand him a coward. But after he saves Mainwairing from a smoke filled room in a training exercise gone wrong, it turns out that he won the Military Medal for Bravery Under Fire as a medical orderly in WW1.
We’re approaching the final part of the series.
What’s in your Top 5? And what do you think will show up in mine?
Let me know.
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